Photo of John Robb

John Robb + Adam Mole
Do you believe in the power of Rock & Roll?
Huntingdon Hall, Worcester – 18/4/2024

John Robb Esquire is the very manifestation of the DIY, homemade punk aesthetic that I fully subscribe to! The singer, bassist, writer, commentator, raconteur and feathered-dandy is quintessentially a self-made man. Armed only with a bass guitar from Woolworths at the tail-end of the 70s, he has “picked and mixed” his way through music culture ever since…

From the perspective of the outsider articulating from the inside Robb’s spoken word events are proving compelling and engaging. The nights are a celebration of his preoccupation with music in all its guises; the title of the events – “Do you believe in the power of Rock and Roll?” – is nothing more than a rhetorical device for all involved. Along with Robb, everyone in the Huntingdon Cathedral on the night wholeheartedly believed in the beauty and religion of music.

The springboard for the night’s entertainment began in the speaker’s home town of Blackpool. Slightly disparaging, slightly affectionate and slighted by his experience, Blackpool has clearly made its mark. The town runs all the way through Robb like the legend Blackpool rock runs through a well-known sugary confection. Robb was once punched by a driver who had stopped his bus to attack him in 1970s Blackpool – just because of his appearance. Like the Manic Street Preachers, Robb appreciates that not all reactions have to be favourable.

Armed with a Powerpoint presentation, an enthusiasm that would shame a newly-qualified primary school teacher and with over four decades of anecdotes, reminisces, analysis and comedic moments JR regaled hisinformed audience. The origins of his musical obsessions were dissected; yes, I too remember when ToTPs was a worthy weekly event. The impact of those first live gigs was analysed; big-up to the Manchester 50! Influences were subjected to an intense finger-search. All the while, well-known characters, those at the centre of bands and cameo-roles were offered up for our delectation. The Gallagher brother’s propensity for drama was met with knowing chuckles. The insight in to how Nirvana toured for the first time in Blighty was sobering. Out of interest, have Dinosaur Jr. ever recorded a music video in your back garden?

Such was the tsunami of the evening’s narrative the first half ran over. No one minded, least of all John Robb.

Adam Mole of Pop Will Eat Itself joined the entertainment for the second half of the evening. The premise was Mole’s biographical tomes – as he was the hoarder – focusing on the various permutations of the band. The conversational style suited both participants and the result was a self-deprecating amble through PWEI’s history. Mole’s mini-metro made more than one guest appearance. As did the connections between the satellite bands orbiting Stourbridge. Fascinating.

The fascination at the centre of all the night’s spoken-chronicles was the man himself: John Robb. He even played his part in helping to name Pop Will Eat Itself. Our man knows the importance of image, self-promotion and how the media works because of his inherent DIY philosophy. He has studied the phenomena close-up for long enough. John Robb is self-aware, his appearance was striking, his vocal delivery was salient, the stories were captivating and the night’s spoken word “pick and mix” lit up Huntingdon Hall like a certain seaside illuminations.

By: The Swilgate Scuttler

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